North East England – Best in County Rankings 2019
For statistical purposes, the North East of England covers Durham, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and the former county of Cleveland in North Yorkshire. Our geographical version of this region also includes all the remaining parts of Yorkshire so it’s quite a large area, stretching to more than nine thousand square miles with a population in excess of seven and a half million people.
This is the fifth English region that we’re currently re-evaluating – there’s only the South West and South East to come – and when our examination of all seven has been completed we’ll be publishing our new Top 100 for England, followed soon after by our Top 100 for Great Britain & Ireland.
All told, there are around 260 clubs situated in the North East and we list sixty of them in three county charts, with eight of the featured courses currently occupying places in the national listings. Three of these clubs in Yorkshire hosted the Ryder Cup between 1929 and 1957, with the home team winning two of the events.
It’s incredible to reflect now on the fact that Team USA won 22 of the 25 Ryder Cup matches played before 1985 – changed days for Team Europe professional players in the modern era. Anyway, without any further distraction, let’s take a closer look at the best golf on offer within this former industrial heartland of England.
It’s a case of “as you were” at the top of the Durham chart with no movement in the first five places, which means that Seaton Carew retains its status as the county No. 1, a position it’s held since we first established Best in County rankings more than a decade ago.
The club dates back to 1874, making it the 10th oldest in the entire country, and an Edinburgh surgeon named Dr. Duncan McCuaig is credited with setting out the original 14 holes. In 1891, this was expanded to an 18-hole course by another Scotsman, club professional James Kay, who would go on to serve at Seaton Carew for forty years.
Seaton Carew Golf Club
Another doctor, Alister MacKenzie, was enlisted to redesign the layout in 1925 and he introduced a number of new holes closer to the coast, replacing some that were routed further inland. Frank Pennink added another four holes in the 1970s when it was thought some might be lost when a lease expired.
Thankfully, this never happened so the club now possesses twenty-two holes, allowing it to operate five different courses – the Old, Brabazon, Micklem, New and Bishop – though only the first three are used regularly. The rather bleak heavy industrial surroundings do little to enhance the landscape around the periphery of the course but this rather unsung links is the real deal and one that should not be missed, regardless of its environment.
|1||Seaton Carew||No change|
|2||Rockliffe Hall||No change|
|3||Brancepeth Castle||No change|
|7||Ramside Hall (Cathedral)||Down 1|
|8||South Moor||Up 1|
|9||Ramside Hall (Prince Bishops')||Down 2|
|10||Castle Eden||No change|
Goswick took over the No. 1 slot in Northumberland when we last revised the county standings two years ago and it’s held on to the top spot this time around. Since opening for play in 1890, the course has been shaped down the years by three of the most famous architects in the business – Willie Park Junior, James Braid and F.W. Hawtree – so there’s plenty of architectural interest to be found on this layout which lies a few miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Goswick Golf Club
A reviewer from a few months ago described the course as “a tremendous little links course that warrants a stop-off if you’re making the long trip up to Scotland.” He continued: “the course comes to life and has the championship feel when approaching the greens, for its bunkering and green sites are first class… Goswick is excellent value for money and plays like and feels like Silloth’s little brother.”
At the bottom of the table, Whitley Bay makes an entrance at No. 10. The club brought this course into play in 1906, sixteen years after its formation, but it’s not known who designed this 18-hole track. Much of the site was used as an open cast coal mine in the early 1950s but again, there’s no record of any architect involved during the reinstatement process.
Jonathan Gaunt was called in to upgrade the course, with work starting in late 2015. Holes 6 to 10 were re-designed and play on the remodelled layout didn’t get under way until the start of the new golf season in 2017. Along with several other courses along the Northumberland coast, Whitley Bay was praised by a reviewer a few months back as “a good quality, excellent value place to play golf.”
|2||Close House (Colt)||No change|
|4||Slaley Hall (Hunting)||Down 1|
|5||Dunstanburgh Castle||Up 2|
|6||Bamburgh Castle||Down 1|
|10||Whitley Bay||New entry|
Ganton heads our new Yorkshire chart, with courses in the top six slots unmoved from the position they previously held. Famed for its fearsome bunkering, the layout at Ganton has been touched by at least half a dozen eminent architects since it was first set out by Scotsman Tom Chisholm and the club’s first professional and head greenkeeper Robert Bird. Venue for past editions of the Ryder Cup, Curtis Cup and Walker Cup, this course would surely have hosted an Open if it had been sited along the North Sea coastline.
Ganton Golf Club
Three courses make steady 3-place progress in the top half of the new chart: Harry Colt’s Woodsome Hall (#13) near Huddersfield; the Old Tom Morris-designed Cleveland (#15) in Redcar; and the 18-hole layout at Headingley (#17) which was remodelled in times gone past by Alister MacKenzie then subsequently re-bunkered by Harry Colt.
Further down the rankings, Wheatley and Selby rise an impressive four slots to number 24 and number 25, but both of these splendid upward moves are overshadowed somewhat by the 6-place leap made by Halifax (known locally as Ogden) and this course now resides at No. 20.
Halifax Golf Club
In a review earlier this year, regular contributor Ed Battye thought Halifax was “a course that divides opinion. Some people love this fascinating James Braid course whilst others hate it… and a few even vow never to return!” He went on to comment: ”It’s undoubtedly a course for the purist but I’m yet to play a batter moorland course and it is those who are put off by the elements and the severities that are missing out.”
We’ve extended our Yorkshire listings to a Top 40 so there are ten new entries in our new chart, the highest of which, Scarborough South Cliff, enters at No. 28. Redesigned by Alister MacKenzie between the two World Wars, the course has had a few holes added or modified in more recent times to counter coastal erosion and new road developments but most of the clifftop track in play today is the one that was remodelled by the Good Doctor back in 1920.
|7||Sand Moor||Up 2|
|11||Bingley St Ives||Down 1|
|13||Woodsome Hall||Up 3|
|14||Moor Allerton (Blackmoor & HIgh)||Down 2|
|23||Scarborough North Cliff||Down 2|
|28||Scarborough South Cliff||New entry|
|30||Crosland Heath||Down 3|
|36||Rudding Park (Hawtree)||New entry|
The penultimate English region to be re-ranked is the South West and in that article we’ll be looking at the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.
Top 100 Golf Courses